Saturday, October 27, 2012
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
|Bottom: The Cuckoo from Willughby's Ornithologia libri tres of 1667|
2. How does the Cuckoo adjust the time of the insinuation of the egg into another bird's nest so as to ensure that it will be hatched at the right moment?
Again he has no answer but discusses the explanations prevalent at the time of writing. That at the sight of a prospective foster-bird building, the Cuckoo’ conceives’ her egg, and she is ready to lay in the chosen nest before the owner has commenced to incubate. This is based on a process of watching and searching. Alternatively the female Cuckoo knows when to lay by thieving one of the fosterer’s eggs and testing it to see whether it is fresh or partially incubated.
3. How does the Cuckoo contrive, as a general rule, to match its eggs tolerably well, and sometimes perfectly, with the variously coloured eggs of the different nests which house it? Acworth, not surprisingly, treats this as a mystery still unsolved. He rejects any answer based upon evolution or adaptation by natural selection as such answers contradict his religious views. Coincidence is rejected. The theory that the Cuckoo laid its egg on the ground then hawked it around until it found matching eggs is rejected. That the Cuckoo wills a suitable colouring and marking is also rejected. Acworth clearly had some sense. The idea that the Cuckoo has evolved the habit of depositing its egg in the nest of the same species of ‘fosterer’ as had fostered that particular Cuckoo and its forebears and consequently in time the Cuckoo’s egg gradually changes to the colouring and marking of its regular fosterer is also, unfortunately, rejected because fostering does not affect physically the object fostered.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
The Sandpiper was a no show but during the day we did manage eighteen other species of wader. Geese numbers are beginning to build and we saw a few skiens of Pink-footed Geese but fewer numbers of Brent Geese. No Greater White-fronted Geese as yet. Little Egrets were to be seen most everywhere along the east bank and yet it does not seem that long ago that I twitched one of these in Lincolnshire!
Out on the beach there was a pair of Red-throated Divers feeding just two or three metres away from the shore line. They were happy enough concentrating on feeding and ignored the photographers on the beach.
We saw over 90 species over the couple of days but Saturday will be remembered for the movement of Starlings. Throughout the day groups of birds were flying westwards along the coast. We estimated that between six and seven thousand birds flew by whilst we were out. There must have been thousands more earlier and after we stopped birding. Wither did they go?
Friday, October 19, 2012
I spent time trying to take some shots of the waders that were visible on the mud but the light was poor, they were all some distance away and I was hand-holding a 400mm lens - not a good combination for decent photographs. Eleven species of wader were visible but without a scope we couldn't get to grips with anything too far away.
|Distant flock of Grey Lag Geese - over the mud!|
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
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Kilvington Lakes are situated just to the West of Staunton in the Vale and just north of Alverton. The area lies a few miles north of Bottesford and is best accessed from the A52 in the south, the A1 in the east and the A46 in the west. When leaving any of these three main trunk roads follow the minor roads to Staunton or Alverton both of which are signposted. Parking can be a problem as the most popular parking area is a section of grass/mud verge along the minor road which runs along the eastern edge of the lakes. When approaching from the south the parking area is along the left hand side of the road just after a road narrows sign and just before the road kinks to the left and crosses the bridge over the disussed railway. There is a 30mph sign on the right of the road about twenty metres after parking. Directly opposite the sign is a gap in the hedge which provides access to the site. Just on the right through the gap is a comfy bench from which good views can be had of the main or West lake. A board with daily sightings is maintained by the regular local birders.
Looking out to the right from here you can see the line of the dismantled railway and yellow-topped way markers and by following these you can get close views of the other two lakes: North and East lakes.
The area has been designated a biological SINC (Site of Importance for Nature Conservation) and is a series of lakes of both botanical and ornithological interest around a former gypsum workings. The old Kilvington railway here is a representative section of dismantled railway with some botanical interest. The lakes are surrounded by farmland with some new planting. The landform is predominantly flat, being a broad flood plain, and this provides fairly long distance views over to the west.
Species The main attractions of the site are passage waders and wintering wildfowl and gulls. The area is good for raptors, at least eight species have been recorded including Osprey and Marsh Harrier. Passage periods have produced several interesting birds over the past few years including Black Tern, Red-necked Phalarope, Common Scoter, Temminck's Stint, Green-winged Teal, Caspian Gull and Snow Bunting. Smew, Iceland Gull, Greater Scaup, Red-crested Pochard and White-fronted Goose have all been recorded in the winter.
All Year: Little Egret, Common Buzzard, Snipe, Skylark, Green Woodpecker, Linnet, Meadow Pipit. This is a good site for Yellow-legged Gull for most of the year.
Winter: Wildfowl inc. Smew, Goosander, Shelduck and Pintail. Dunlin, Green Sandpiper, Golden Plover, Jack Snipe, Peregrine, Redwing, Fieldfare.
Summer: Common Tern, Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover,Yellow Wagtail, Turtle Dove.
Passage birds recorded have included: Purple Sandpiper, Red Knot, Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Little Stint, Curlew, Sanderling, Turnstone, Little Gull, Arctic Tern, Hobby and Northern Wheatear.
Monday, October 15, 2012
As he did not write or illustrate any books directly it is difficult to find any examples of his work. The only publication to bear his name was The Natural History of the Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia, whose primary author was James Edward Smith. This being a book on butterflies and moths it is thin on bird illustrations! Abbot was a supplier of illustrations for other authors. The earliest set of his bird illustrations was completed in 1791 and sent to his agent in London, Francillon. These paintings were the first of many hundreds to be bought by private collectors and by the authors of ornithological works. Abbot’s paintings are among the earliest representations of the birds of North America. He is considered a pioneer of American ornithology and in 1809 he met the American ornithologist Alexander Wilson (1766-1831). Wilson, the ‘father of American ornithology’, had come to America from Scotland, and had embarked on a nine volume work, American Ornithology (1808-13). Abbot provided Wilson with many illustrations for his books.
In 1997 Beehive press published a book of some of Abbot’s bird plates called John Abbot’s Birds of Georgia: Selected Drawings from the Houghton Library, Harvard University. It’s not cheap…if you can find a copy. A good read is Pamela Gilbert’s: John Abbot: Birds, Butterflies and Other Wonders, (NHM 1998).
The species’ names used by Abbot for his illustrations were often very different to those in common usage today. Test yourself! What are the species in the following Abbot paintings now known as?
White or Red-Billed Curlew
His illustrations are considered by many to be fine and realistic renditions. But, again I find them to be flat and a little wooden. They all lack any detailed background or foliage, with birds perched on a twig or log. Some of the colouring looks a little childish as though he had used some bits of crayon
Friday, October 12, 2012
The idea behind BirdTrack is that if you have been out birdwatching anywhere in Britain and Ireland, or simply watching birds in your garden, records of the birds you have seen (or indeed have not seen) can be useful data. Thus the scheme is year-round, and ongoing, and anyone with an interest in birds can contribute. Important results produced by BirdTrack include mapping migration (arrivals and departures) timings and monitoring scarce birds. We know very little about the timing of arrival and departure of winter visitors and this is just one area in which BirdTrack will provide useful information. There are also many scarce birds where we would like to know much more about their populations.'
If you are into listing, stats, graphs, listing and more lists then this is going to be right up your street. You have to sign-up, enter sites and sightings etc. as you would expect but the stuff you can generate and the info. it provides on your birding is awesome. There is a vast range of reports that you can generate and download. Visit lists, site lists, species lists, combinations of all lists generated by your data. You can find out which birds have been seen in your area, get up-to-the-minute migration news, monitor population changes and lots and lots of other good stuff. Your county recorder can use your observations too.
Click on the following link. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
As an example I have just returned from birding Kilvington Lakes in Notts. When I got home I entered my records into BirdTrack; took about ten minutes, and the program allowed me to download a printable list of today's sightings, it up-dated my total species list for the lakes, the year and the month . Today's sightings are available to the Notts recorder and the locality species list is improved. On top of this I have added valuable information to the BTO's data bank.
From a birder’s perspective it would be the two volumes of exquisite plates published in 1802 – after he had died – that provide most interest. The first published as a large folio measuring 51cm x 33.5cm is: ‘Histoire naturelle et generale des Coliris, Oiseauxmouches, Jacamars et Promerops.’ That’s Hummingbirds, Jacamars and Sugarbirds I suspect.
|Plate 22 Vol 1|
|Plate 35 Vol 1|
Both of these were combined into one volume: ‘Oiseaux Dores Ou A Reflets Metalliques.’ I think that translates as something like ‘Birds with shiny metal reflections.’ You can see why he chose Hummers and Birds of Paradise – although Starlings would have been good.
The 190 plates were engraved by Audebert, printed in colours, including gold, by a method invented by Audebert in which he printed lines of gold and silver over the painted colours of the birds to give them a metallic sheen imitating the iridescent colours of nature. Clever stuff!
But here’s the really interesting bit: The letterpress under the plates was printed in gold in the folio edition. Twelve copies were issued with the complete text printed in gold and one copy was printed in gold on vellum. Who’s got that? Where is it?
Wednesday, October 10, 2012